30 October 2008

4 Approaches to Solopreneur Survival in Turbulent Times

I don’t have to say it, you already know -- It’s scary out there. Economic downturns hit everyone hard, but especially the sole proprietor business in start up phase or operating on a shoestring budget. What can be done to survive?

If you can stay flexible and rise above fear – two key elements for survival according to many experts in both counseling and financial fields – there are at least 4 ways to approach this precarious period.

1. Diversify your offerings.

Is there a technique you use but have never considered marketing separately? Now’s the time to open new niche markets to skills you already have. Be sure the skills you select really address the needs people have right now, or this diversification will be wasted and unfocused effort. For example, I use projective imagery with counseling clients as an assessment tool. It’s a short hop from that to offering tarot readings. When money is tight, more people are willing to spend for one-time information than are willing to engage in unending therapy.

2. Recycle your knowledge.

Look at what you know and find at least 3 ways to offer it at 3 different price points. If you are an ND seeing diabetic patients for $125 an hour, for example, there will likely be some common themes of nutritional advice that you give everyone with diabetes. Why not record that as an MP3 file and sell it on your website or put it on a cd for sale for $12.50? Then put that information in writing and format it as an ebook for the same price. Give extra info in the ebook and package the cd and ebook together for $20.

3. Increase your visible value to your target market.

This means sharpening your marketing message, being focused on problem solving the actual issues that people currently have and not trying to persuade them to want things that are esoteric or not primary on their minds right now. That requires really knowing what your niche market is thinking and feeling. Ask them!

4. Keep your eyes open for advantageous opportunities.

Accept invitations to speak, even for free, then use your presentation in other ways for other audiences. Leverage your efforts by recycling in order to reach more potential clients. Or, search the web for free webmaster tools (see www.bravenet.com for one such resource) to add sticky value to your own website and get your message across in new ways.

28 October 2008

Why Does Marketing Your Practice Make You Uncomfortable?

Recently I discovered a number of reasons that marketing makes therapists, life coaches and some solo practice doctors uncomfortable when they think of marketing themselves. Can you relate to any of these reasons?
  • we are insecure about our own expertise or depth of experience
  • we have old baggage about bragging about (promoting) ourselves
  • we have new baggage about giving promises of cure, or advising / manipulating decisions
Sounding familiar yet? Personal insecurity lies at the root of many business failures for solopreneurs in the healing arts. We have ingrained lack of confidence in ourselves, always second guessing what we know. And we have an inner critic telling us that it's being a show off to tout that we're good enough to help others heal their lives. We have to get over these discomforts.

What about these reasons:
  • we subconsiously fear getting too much business -- what if we can't handle it?
  • we subconsciously fear getting the wrong clients -- what if they are dangerous or litigious?
Might you be afraid of your own success? Could you be sabotaging yourself, in order to stay safely invisible? Are you running your business from an irrational fear-based place in your emotional reflexes?

If you see yourself in any of these key reasons why marketing makes healing arts solopreneurs uncomfortable, you might benefit from joining my free teleclass on the
Psychology of Marketing with Ease and Grace, Nov. 7th at 5 pm PST.

See this page of my website to register.

18 October 2008

Anxiety Poisons Self-Employed Business Spirit

Anxiety is toxic to body, mind and spirit. It clouds thinking, promotes irrational fear-based decision making, and causes us to contract not just physiologically in our muscles, but to pull back energetically on hopes, dreams, and plans.

From the perspective of attracting clients for your business, this is a period in which we all need to think smarter and be more creative. And that will be a challenge for some who get paralyzed by their fears.

Fear paralysis is a threat to our survival instincts -- the embodied reflex that prompts us to want to escape from danger. But as a biologic response that seeps into our financial and business thinking, it is counter-productive for a self-employed business owner.

This instinctual response leads some to taking rash actions that make things worse, including in some cases to abandon our dreams, sense of personal mission in life, and even to get out of self-employment altogether. What we mistakenly think is taking the safe route, actually prolongs the time we spend in danger.

Financial realities may require taking on some part time work in another field for a while, but I encourage you to not let go of your entrepreneurial dreams forever. Do at least one thing each day that keeps your own business going, no matter how small, or seemingly trivial. That keeps you connected to your goals, and helps maintain the posture of being ready for a comeback when the economy begins to rebound.

03 October 2008

Starting a Business During Scary Economic Times

Eighteen years ago I started my psychotherapy practice during version one of Bush-onomics. Now I’m shifting into coaching and client attraction mentoring during the tail end (should that be tail spin??) of Bush-onomics version two. My mom always said I like doing things the hard way.

My point is, though, that it can be done. While the fear-based conventional wisdom will be that you should conserve your resources and take whatever steady paycheck you can get, my soul just doesn’t go along with that. My guess is that yours doesn’t, either.

How to Survive Now to Thrive as Quickly as Possible

It comes down to knowing very clearly and specifically who your ideal client is, and what they are most distressed about right now that they will gladly pay you to help them do, eliminate, or solve. What motivates your target client type during fearful economic times?

The days of marketing yourself as a generalist are over. When people are counting every penny and are fearful of letting go of a buck, they seek the expert they believe they can afford. Keyword there is expert. If you aren’t distinguishing yourself in your marketplace as at least a specialist – if not an expert – you aren’t using the energy of the times to build your business.

And make no mistake – coaching is a business. If you are running yours like a hobby, start filling out those applications for unemployment compensation. Unless you win the lottery or are already independently wealthy, no business will survive these economic times if the business owner is simply dabbling.

So, what motivates your target client type during fearful economic times? You must discover that, name it and its consequences, and focus on that in your marketing.

3 Ways to Discover Your Clients’ Motivators

1. Ask everyone you know what they are scared of right now. Make a list of the words they use (this is market research).

2. Model your ideal client on yourself – what freaks you out about your own financial situation? You’re already a specialist in understanding this type of client (assuming you are self-aware).

3. Spend a week paying attention to how your general competitors are marketing to the ideal client you share in common (this is marketing intelligence). Make a list of the emotionally compelling points they make.

Craft Your Message to Fit Your Clients’ Psyche

People make hiring and purchasing decisions based on emotional perception of want, and either logical or fantasy expectations of the results. Know what your clients’ ultimate wants are (such as: to feel safe, to save money, to end conflict in relationship, etc) and highlight those in your marketing message. Present yourself in a way that is unique from your colleagues so that you will stand out in the prospective clients’ view as if in a spotlight.

These strategies will help your start up business survive through these scary times.